Broad topic, eh? Yep.
I’ve discovered that these three often go hand-in-hand and during this season of my life, the following words couldn’t be truer today.
I. Living life to the full
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller
What does it mean to have life to the full as Jesus states in John 10.10: “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it to the fullest”?
The desire for fulfillment is universal. Everyone wants it. Everyone needs it. From the moment we’re born, we recognize our need, our hunger, for more of life. We try to hold onto every experience, enjoy every relationship, and maximize every opportunity we come across. We try to fill that God-shaped void with everything this world has to offer and we always, always find ourselves still feeling empty after those brief moments of fulfillment subside. We discover that no matter how many adventures we seek or things we attempt fill our lives with, we never seem to be satisfied.
It is not by chance that we seek to live fulfilling lives. God created us this way. We are, after all, created in His image and this facet of our humanity sets us apart from the rest of creation. We have the ability to feel emotion, to hunger to grow and learn because of those same characteristics in God. This is what causes us to be creative and drives us to enjoy and treasure the very lives we live.
Why the disconnect? Why do so many of us feel like we’re always running on empty? Why is it that even with religion, we still feel as though we are not living our lives to their fullest potential? Because we seek that fulfillment in everything but Him. We were created for relationship and that longing is only made complete when we have a relationship with and in Him.
God gave us many things which are pleasurable and which He made for us to enjoy, but their sole purpose was only to point us towards Him. Instead, we make these things into idols and continuously seek to fill that void with them. Without that relationship with God, every other experience is dulled by being limited to itself. It no longer satisfies its original purpose – to point us toward the Creator of all things who imagined it.
This is the truth that I’ve been discovering the last decade of my life. Granted, this all started when I was four years old, but a child can only comprehend so much. Believing was easy (childlike faith). As I got older, even that became more and more difficult as Satan used culture, legalism, and worldly views to “teach” me what to believe, how to act, etc.
What does it mean to live the Christian life, a life to the full?
First, a life to the fullest is a life that is characterized by being in a relationship with Jesus, because He Himself is the definition of life. John 14.6 identifies Jesus as the life: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” A bold statement, yes. This is a truth that we must first understand and embrace. There is no way to live life to the full except through Jesus Christ. Life to the full means having abundant, eternal life and only He offers it. Call me intolerant; call me narrow-minded – whatever you like, but this is truth. We cannot pick and choose which parts of Jesus we accept and which we don’t. We have to accept all of Jesus.
Second, following Christ is a choice that must be made daily: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”(Luke 9.23) Did you catch that one word in there? Daily.
Third, we need to understand that we are a new creation: I am no longer who I was. I’ve been made new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Fourth, we must allow Him to transform and renew our minds (Romans 12.2). We’ve been conditioned to think the way our culture does…about everything. Only God can transform you from the inside out. All too often in my life, I’ve fallen for the lie that I’m not good enough; that my insecurities will always be there to hold me down and that I’ll never rise above them. But, here’s a staggering thought: Jesus already overcame them. He did so when He gave His life for me on the cross. I’m covered. Because of His sacrifice, I have the authority through Him to rise above temptation; to rise above those insecurities. I am healed. I have been set free; free to live my life to the fullest in the only way possible: in and through Him.
Fifth, we must treat others with love, the way Christ commands us. See the next section of this entry.
Sixth, we must live out His teachings. We don’t do this because we have to. We do so because we want to honor Him…these commands are lived out in us because we want to honor Him with every fiber of our being. This is an outflow of the love I have for God. There are moments in my life (I say moments because I am finite in comparison) when I can’t wait to express my love to Him.
Lastly, I’m able to have life to the full through sharing my faith with others. Nothing brings me more joy (or the Spirit more joy which I, in turn, experience spewing from within me) than living out my life the way God calls me to. Living this way brings up questions from those my life directly touches…”Why do you do this?” “Why do you do that?” “How can you stand on that conviction?” “Where do these thought processes come from?” “Explain your faith.” “Are you sure you’re only 28?” (That last one makes me chuckle just a bit.)
“Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.” – Helen Keller
Along with living life to the full, there are several things I would never want to regret in this life I’ve been given:
- To never spend time discovering the amazing life that God has for me to live. God has a great plan for me. He even has a great plan for you. And the only way to discover that great life is by spending time with Him and living it. He gave you a life. Live it.
- To not spend quality time with family and friends – to never have the time to build those relationships. You don’t ever want to look back over your life and realize that you put everything else above family and friends. Yes, it is a fact that we have responsibilities outside of our family and social lives, but it is very important to have balance. No relationship is worth climbing the corporate ladder or winning that next prize. What is the point of achieving success if we have no one to share it with?
We were created to relate to one another and bring glory to God in doing so, not spend our days toiling for that next paycheck. Now, don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with work in and of itself. God gave us work to do at the beginning of creation, but don’t let that become your life. Relationships and the time spent in building those are very important. Keeping close contact with the people you love during the process of achieving success won’t leave anyone feeling like you neglected them. Making that commitment to set aside quality time to spend with them can not only leave you feeling fulfilled, it will leave them feeling fulfilled and valued as well. One of my co-workers once said, “I don’t live to work. I work so I can live.” She’s right, you know.
- To never enjoy the life He’s given me. You deserve to enjoy your life. You deserve to take a day and rest (God set that example back in Genesis 2.2-3, again in Hebrews 4.4); you deserve to do the things that make you happy and spend quality time (as mentioned above) with those you value most. And the beautiful part? We can choose to do this every day. Yes, every day! This doesn’t have to include taking a vacation. For me, it’s reading a book. It’s going on a long walk down by the river. It’s exploring my city. It’s touching the keys (piano for those of you who do not know what I’m referring to). It’s heading to this little woodland nature preserve and taking in all that God has to offer me. It’s going on a walk with Him while pouring out my heart on my darkest days. There is so much fulfillment in that.
- To never pursue my dreams. One of my biggest fears is success. I’m not so much afraid of failing – it happens all the time – (granted, starting a new business always has its risks), but what if I succeed? What then? I’m not out to boost my ego or anything, but what if? And, at the same time, I also fear not taking the chance. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and this dream of mine has been mulling in the pipeline for well over a decade now…since before college. It’s time to take that chance; to live out a dream I’ve been given, God willing.
- To never not eliminate the opinion of others. What God thinks of me is by far more important that what others think of me or even I think of myself. It’s sad when one looks back on life and realizes that they’ve allowed other people to dictate who he/she could be and/or what they could do. Throughout my childhood I had various teachers and adults tell me that I couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that….that I wasn’t qualified. What a crock of lies! When you concentrate on what others think of you or their opinion, you start living to please them and that is not the life God calls you to. Focus instead on His opinion of you and know that in and through Him, you can do all things because He gives you strength (Philippians 4.13). I’m not a gambling woman, but I would bet that He thinks pretty highly of you.
- To not stay in the race He has laid before me. I don’t have it in me to quit. I made the decision long ago to never give up. Now, this doesn’t mean that I keep knocking on a door that’s obviously been closed; this goes for situations where I could simply throw in the towel when times get tough. Instead, I must carry on, relying on the strength of God, who is the only One who can carry me through.
- To continue feeling that I don’t deserve to live a fulfilled life. Again, the lies Satan spins to keep us from living. Jesus died so we could live and take back our authority over the evil one. Embrace that truth and the truth will set you free.
Living life to the full does not mean enjoying a life of ease and never experiencing problems. I have my own set of hang ups, temptations, insecurities, let-downs and what-nots that I get so caught up in from time to time that I forget Who I’m living for. In 1 Peter 5.8, Peter writes about the enemy who wishes to destroy us. Life isn’t easy. I’ve been battered and bruised through situations I would rather have not lived through, but I was able to emerge stronger relying on His strength alone (Philippians 4.13). I repeat: life isn’t easy. It doesn’t come with a roadmap. God gives a guidebook – His Word – His living, breathing, breath-taking Word – to fall back on. We have this hope (Hebrews 6.19).
No matter what opposition you face – whether that be the lack of a job or difficulties at work, the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship – living the Christian life is worth it! I’ve discovered that in enjoying the relationship I get to have with my Creator, a God who loves me (oh the thought!), and His Son, Jesus, being confident of where I will be spending eternity, and living in day-to-day fellowship with Him is far greater than any opposition I may face in this life. There is no life fuller than one lived for the King!
II. Loving others the way God loves me
The most important aspect about God is love. God is love. All will know that we are His disciples by how we love one another (John 13.35). And this love is nothing like what the world teaches. I’ve mentioned before how twisted it is. The world teaches you to withdraw from it rather than embrace it…it claims that you must first protect yourself; it also teaches that it’s a feeling that you must dive into and seek out. The thrill of life. The love of Christ isn’t a mere feeling. It’s a lifestyle that is lived out every day. It’s a choice. In Matthew 22, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It’s selfless and giving; not expecting anything in return. It’s respect for others. It’s mercy. It’s compassion. We are commanded to love one another the way Jesus loves us (John 13.34). We love because He first loved us (1 John 4.19).
We are even called to love our enemies (Matthew 5.42-48). I often think of the phrase “Kill them with kindness.” Have you ever tried that on someone who wasn’t kind to you? I have and the resulted benefits were huge.
If you haven’t loved in that way, you haven’t truly lived. To live life to its fullest, you must dive into the ocean of love. God is calling you to experience it and live it. His Word is full of it; from beginning to end – a divine love story. Paul defines love quite eloquently in his letter to the Corinthians:
If I [fill in the blank]…but do not have love, I am/have nothing…
[Love] is patient
[Love] is kind
[Love] does not envy
[Love] does not boast
[Love] is not proud
[Love] does not dishonor others
[Love] is not self-seeking
[Love] is not easily angered
[Love] keeps no record of wrongs
[Love] does not delight in evil
[Love] rejoices with the truth
[Love] always protects
[Love] always trusts
[Love] always hopes
[Love] always perseveres
[Love] never fails
1 Corinthians 13.1-8a
Try something with me. Where I placed the brackets around the word [love], insert your name. Can you say that that’s true of you; day in and day out? It’s not for me. I can’t strive to meet that mark all on my own; I’m only human. My humanity gets in the way; my own sinful desires get in the way.
Jesus was human too, but He was also God incarnate. He was able to see the people He created in a way that we can’t. He’s been teaching me, through His Spirit, that He can love others that way through me. In allowing Him that access, the way I see the people that cross my path on a day to day basis changes. The child of God in tattered, stained clothes walking down the street didn’t ask for the life he’s/she’s living. Their personal choices may have gotten them there and this fallen world we live in doesn’t make things any easier. They’re broken and God loves them just as He loves me. Whether I offer a smile and a kind word in passing or share one of those care totes from Hope for the City with them, I’m choosing to love in spite of myself; in spite of my own comfort level and meeting a need I could have easily ignored. I alone am not love. I can love, but I can’t do it perfectly. In my choice to allow Jesus the right to love through me, He gets all the glory.
III. Letting go and letting God
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55.22
We hear it all the time, but few of us really live our lives this way.
“Let go and let God.”
We tend to want to hang on to everything – I know of a few hoarders and refuse to become one. We do the same with relationships and situations we think we deserve.
How many times have I set something down at His feet only to pick it up again down the road? That happens and I find myself asking the question, “When will I ever learn?” followed by a bout of hysterical laughter and tears.
I am one that believes in doing a job well done and doing that job until no longer needed. I was taught to finish what I started and never quit. But, I’ve been learning lately that there are some things that God needs to handle in His time…not mine. I’ve found myself to be anxious, tense, concerned and emotionally exhausted/stressed when it comes to certain situations and things in my life and I’ve discovered that they only way I can find peace is by letting it go and letting God fill my need.
I’ve mentioned before that life is an adventure. However, there may be times when the journey isn’t as clear or as smooth as we would like it to be. My own life is littered with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, highs and lows and it’s during those “down” times that I relearn just how much I need Him to take the reins and lead the way.
If you find yourself in a similar situation – a valley or low – you too can seek Him out.
God’s wisdom is ever present and available. He’s more than able to fill you with understanding, light and life. The void you have was created to only be filled by Him, not an earthly relationship or object that you find affection in. These things, men and women included, will fail you…over and over.
When you let go; when you make that agreement with God to release the entire situation to Him, you find that you can breathe a sigh of relief and bask in the warmth of His glory illuminating your life. Peace fills your mind, body and soul and you discover that you can function and live in spite of the valley that you are in. You will find renewed strength, faith and courage. God’s Spirit, His presence, becomes active from the inside out and your understanding will become clearer. You will find that God’s love will take care of what you cannot accomplish on your own.
I’ve often found Him in the words of Amena Brown – see video here (You). He is my all.
You find me when I’m hiding behind all my disguises
You see me
It takes You to keep me breathing
You are heart
You send me and You bring me close
Until when You look at me You see You
You are heavenly
My present and future destiny
You are Father
You are the same yesterday, now and forever
You are pleasure
You are worth
Present in every season
You are worship
You are the reason for all my commotion
You are the one that I pray to
You can tell that I’m nothing without You
So awesome that I can even pray to You about You
To know You
To sense You
To believe You more
To love You more
To obey You more
To give You more of my heart
God search me
Be pleased with me
Be my Reality
Until there is no me left
Only You are Light
You are Peace
You are Belief
You are Advance and Retreat
Of what, to what, to whom can I compare you?
You are my All Things New
You are my Place of refuge
You are my Fortress
My Creativity in the strength of Your words to me
You are my ability to see, hear, feel, move, live, breathe, be
You are life and death all at the same time
You are Friend
Believer, Savior, Redeemer
You are truth
You transcend old age and youth
You are timeless
Lightness and darkness
And in a mess like my life You see righteousness
You leave me speechless
You alone are God
God is my constant source of hope. He is my constant source of joy; the only reason I’m able to smile some days. In knowing Him personally, I can stand in the midst of the trials life may throw my way and know that I’m not facing them alone. He is more than able to face them with me, holding me in His mighty right hand, if only I would cling to Him (Psalm 63.8). He will never leave me, nor will He forsake me. He longs to fill that void with His love; His joy. And when I’m full, I can pour that out into the lives of others as He moves through me.
That being said, there comes a choice. Would you like to Him personally? You can. God isn’t as disconnected as some individuals say. He’s alive and He is very real. I’ve seen the fruits of this evident in my own life. You simply have to choose to seek Him out. He stands where He’s always been…at the door, knocking and asking, “Will you invite me in?” He doesn’t impose. He simply offers the choice. Will you choose Him today, tomorrow and every day after?
This is simply a suggested prayer you might want to use if you’d like to begin a relationship with God.
I want to know you personally. I know that I am a sinner and that nothing I could do can make up for that. Thank you for dying in my place and paying the price for my sin. I know that my sin doesn’t separate me from God anymore. Thank you for forgiving me. I know that You love me and that I will spend eternity with You. I want You to be my Savior. Come into my life and take control, make me the person You created me to be.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. This is an ongoing process and it only happens when you choose to follow Him each and every day. Know that you are not alone. Seek out a local church and get plugged in…slowly. Start by seeking out the pastor or a known church leader who can disciple you in your walk with Christ. All relationships start somewhere and, as the church, we come alongside our brothers and sisters and are commanded to walk with them, carrying one another’s burdens as if there were our own. You are not alone.